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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mini challenges

So, you're ready for a writing challenge, but for whatever reason Book in a Week or NaNo is too overwhelming. Does this mean you have to give up the idea of writing challenges? No!

I'm a fan of the mini-challenge, just like I'm a fan of breaking up big projects into small, manageable chunks. If you have limited time, a short attention span or just want to dip your toe into the world of writing challenges, try some of these ideas on for size.

1. Get a kitchen timer, and set it for 15 minutes. Then write as much as you can (without stopping to edit) before the timer goes off. You can do this for bigger chunks of time too -- 30 minutes, an hour.

2. Call or e-mail a writing friend and challenge her to a writing duel. Set a start time and say you'll write for 30 minutes, an hour, whatever. Then you check back in with each other to see who got the most pages. You might even want to involve a friendly wager, like the one with fewer pages/words has to send the winner a box of her favorite cookies or chocolate.

3. Challenge yourself to write only one page per hour on a day when you're home all day. Once you've written that one page, you can do anything else you want until the beginning of the next hour. If you write fast, you can get in a page and an episode of your favorite show each hour! :) At the end of a normal, eight-hour work day, you'll have eight new pages. And you might have cleared off your TiVo and cleaned the house too.

4. Ever wonder how much you could write in a day if you had nothing else to do and you really put your nose to the grindstone? Why not find out? Clear your schedule for one full 24-hour period. Send the hubby and kids off to spend the day/night with Grandma and Grandpa. Check into a hotel room for a day. Whatever you have to do to be truly alone. Then literally sit at the computer and do nothing but write. No e-mail, no YouTube vids, no reading the Internet at all. Have your day be all about writing except for hourly breaks to go to the bathroom, stretch, eat, get some water to drink. We don't want anyone getting a bloodclot in her leg from sitting too long, but it's an interesting challenge to see how much you can really do if you clear everything else away.

You might be surprised how much you can write using these and other self-challenging methods. Most people love to rise to a challenge and win, even if the challenge comes from within.

So, anyone try these methods before? What were the results? Have any other ideas for mini challenges?



At 6:11 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Wonderful suggestions Trish.

I have an author friend who recently retired and started writing full time. She always wondered just how productive she could be on a regular basis. She set her minimum page production at 5 pages a day and was thrilled when she ended up finishing early.

That may seem like an easy goal to hit for some, but as many reading this know - it's not always that easy. It is, however, a reasonable page count goal for even a tough day at the computer.

Too many times writers are defeated early by an ambitious goal that becomes difficult to achieve. Your plan encourages a writer by setting a reachable goal to begin with.

BTW - it was fun seeing so many people lining up to buy your new book A FIREFIGHTER IN THE FAMILY this weekend. :)

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Thanks, Dianna. The signing was cool on Saturday. Of course, I couldn't even see you and Sherrilyn for all the people. :)

I like the practice of setting the manageable goal. Then you feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach it and don't feel let down if you don't meet some more ambitious goal. And if you pass your manageable goal, you feel even better.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Caren Crane said...

Wow, Trish, I'm feeling very...challenged! Everyone writes so differently, it is sometimes daunting for me to compete against others. I am not afraid, however, to compete against myself. I think, since it's a Federal Reserve holiday, I'll make myself a challenge today. If I write even one page, it will be a triumph!

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Yay, Caren! Hope your self challenge goes well.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger jo robertson said...

Wow, Trish, what a great topic. I think all of us have days when we don't think we can manage a single word, but breaking the task into small chunks certainly makes it doable.

I generally have a weekly goal, so many words. That way I have more freedom within the week to meet the goal in case an emergency comes up, which it always seems to!

I like the writing duel though. That's be great fun!

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Trish, you're right about the bigger challenges sometimes being overwhelming. While sometimes it's good to be able to just set everything else aside and only write, the opposite is also true. We need another life. Our other life needs us.

Although I'm doing NaNo right now, I've really been at it for almost two months and I'm losing steam.
I got to thinking of it in terms of what you're saying and realize I my goal is really not word count but is aimed at finishing two unfinished projects and then working on a third. One is done. The second only needs about 10,000 more words. (But it's only about 15,000 in the first place). I'm just not focused on the word count, NaNo or not.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Great tips, Trish! I need to put some of these into action if I have any hope of finishing The Raven's Heart in time to get it in the mail for the GH!! I am taking three days off (November 16,17,18) to do nothing but write as I push to the finish. I am buying all the groceries, turning off the phone, warning all friends and family to stay away and I am going to bring this puppy home if it kills me!

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Jo, a weekly goal is a good idea to give you flexibility in your schedule.

Delle, good luck in finishing all your projects.

Louisa, here's to the muse being with you and helping you crank out those pages. Good luck in the GH! Would love to see you as a finalist again.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Trish, my Bandita Buddy! What great ideas. Like Caren, I'm not really a compete against other people person but I LOVE the one about write one page and hour and then I'm FREEEEEE! Must try that when I start the new book which, very evilly, I've been putting off. I absolutely agree to set low targets so you don't set yourself up to feel like a failure. When I feel like a failure, it tends to eat into my productivity rather than enhance it. Whereas that sense of achievement always spurs me on to more achievement.

Good luck with finishing your GH entry, Miss Louisa! You can do it!!!

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Okay, Miss Anna, get to work. :) Even if you only write 5 pages a day, you'll have 35 new pages at the end of the week.

At 6:24 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Get her, Trish!! She needs to get busy!

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

I love the duel idea. Dare I admit my competitive side? The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't. Now.... whom shall I challenge?

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Christine Wells said...

Trish, those are some great ideas! I also think sometimes you need to trick yourself into sitting down, so as it says in Bird by Bird just setting out to write a scene can work. You often find once you've bribed yourself to sit down with a small task, you keep writing past the scene.

At 6:50 AM, Anonymous Christine Glover said...

This year I learned how much I can accomplish in a very short amount of time due to a move. Since January 29 I have staged a house, sold a house, bought a house, moved an entire household twice (once to an apt. to help daughter finish her school year and say goodbye), and reunited stored and professionally moved stuff by July. Whew. Although I didn't have huge chunks of time, I managed to revise all of the book by Oct. (albeit not beautifully in all places). Contests kept me going. If I found an hour, I used it! Oddly, as soon as all was settled (sort of), and daughter went off to school, I found all sorts of ways to waste time again. Silly. It appears that the busier I am, the more I accomplish.

I like the 1 page per hour challenge for me. I will use it on "days of great distraction."


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